How can I Stop my child waking so early in the morning?

Early morning wake-ups can be a struggle for many parents, and there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve already had a full day at 11am. It’s worth noting that when I talk about early rising, I am talking about any wake times before 6am. Anything after 6am – I am afraid – is fair game when it comes to babies (most are natural early birds!)

But if you want to get your baby waking after 6am, what can you do?

Tackle the basics first

Before delving deeper, it’s important to address the basics that can contribute to early rising. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Light: Ensure your child’s sleep environment is dark and conducive to sleep. Use blackout curtains to block out early morning sunlight.
  • Noise: Minimize noise disturbances that could disrupt your child’s sleep. Consider using white noise machines or soundproofing their room.
  • Environment: Create a sleep-friendly environment that promotes relaxation and comfort. Keep the bedroom cool, quiet, and clutter-free.
  • Comfort: Ensure your child is comfortable and appropriately dressed for sleep. Consider using sleep sacks or blankets to keep them warm without overheating.

This doesn’t work? Look to your child’s routine…

If addressing the basics doesn’t improve early rising, the next step is to dig deeper into your little one’s routine…

Understanding their unique sleep needs

Every child has their own individual sleep needs – in other words the amount of sleep they are capable of having in a 24-hour period. Here’s a breakdown of recommended sleep durations according to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Babies (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours

Calculating their 24h sleep needs

To determine your child’s 24-hour sleep needs, start by keeping a sleep diary and tracking their sleep patterns over several days. Note down the total hours of nighttime sleep and daytime naps to calculate their average daily sleep duration. 

How to use their 24h sleep needs to avoid early rising

Is their day simply shifted too early?
The most common reason for early rising is that a child has simply had enough sleep! And this is because their body clock has shifted earlier – which continues to reinforce the early rising.

Imagine – your child wakes at 5am. They take an early nap because they are exhausted, and as a result their consequent naps come early too. Their bedtime then comes early – which reinforces the bodies tendency to wake early!

The answer? Push their morning nap as late as possible – ideally 9am for most children. This helps push their other naps later, and gets bedtime later too.  Give this shifted routine at least 10 days to see results, it can take time for a child’s body clock to shift.

Daytime Sleep Eats into Nighttime Sleep
Your child’s total 24-hour sleep needs are calculated based on both daytime naps and nighttime sleep. When daytime sleep exceeds a certain threshold, it can reduce the amount of sleep they get at night, leading to early waking!

Therefore, we want to keep an eye on total daytime sleep in comparison to their night length. Let’s take a real-life example: 

Imagine a baby needs 13 hours of sleep in 24-hours, but has 3.5 hours of daytime sleep. As a result, they can only sleep for 9.5 hours overnight. They go to bed at 7:30pm, and wake at 5am (e.g. the 9.5 hours total)

And how would you fix this? You tweak their 24-hour balance of sleep. With the baby from the example:

You cap their daytime sleep at 2.5 hours – which would increase their potential night length to 10.5 hours. With a 7:30 bedtime, this now results in a 6am wake! You could also cap total daytime sleep at 3 hours, and push bedtime to 8pm as a middle-ground.

Understanding your child’s unique sleep needs can help you get to the root of why they are rising early – and help you create a plan to shift that wake time after 6am!

Struggling to get to the root cause of your child’s early rising issues? Grab a copy of our Early Rising Sleep Guide. We go through all of this in a tonne more detail – alongside other common causes for early rising.